EXCLUSIVE: Iyanla Vanzant on Her Explosive Sit-Down with DMX
Michael Rowe

When Iyanla Vanzant sits down with DMX, everyone had better tune in with a notebook and pencil because it’s going to be explosive. Vanzant meets the embattled rapper on the season 2 premiere of Iyanla: Fix My Life to offer “support” around his issues with drug abuse, women, his extensive arrest record (“roughly 30 times,” he tells her), and his relationship with his family, particularly his son.

Vanzant spoke to ESSENCE.com about the episode, where she thinks DMX went wrong, and what we can all learn from him.

ESSENCE.com: What made you choose DMX?
IYANLA VANZANT: His ex-wife [Tashera Simmons] wrote in and asked if we would be able to support him. And then he agreed that he needed some support and would do the show. The biggest difficulty was just his capacity to be vulnerable and to speak honestly about what was going on with him. 

ESSENCE.com: Where do you think DMX went wrong?
VANZANT: I don’t think that he went wrong. All of us have ways in which we mask and cover our pain. This is a man who is in a tremendous amount of pain. Some of us eat; some of us shop or eat chocolate. What he is doing is a less socially acceptable way to mask and cover his pain because he doesn’t have the skills and the tools to deal with it otherwise. So I don’t think he went wrong, it’s just a defense mechanism.

ESSENCE.com: Where do you think that pain came from?
VANZANT: It came from his upbringing and the breakdown in the relationship with his father. It came from a breakdown in the relationship with his mom, who was struggling and trying to raise him. She ended up putting him in a juvenile detention center because he was acting out and she didn’t have the capacity or the tools to deal with him. What he made up about that is that she was abandoning him when the truth is that she as doing the best that she could.

ESSENCE.com: There’s a part of us that may want to be voyeuristic when watching this episode because we’re watching yet another celebrity breakdown. At the same time it feels like there’s something we can learn here.
VANZANT: All of us can learn something from this. We can learn how to have hard conversations; how to not let people die when we see them engaged in bad behaviors. We can learn how to have compassion for someone when they’re being a total butthead because compassion is what will help open their heart. We can learn how to create powerful, strong boundaries, and not allow people to cross those boundaries.

ESSENCE.com: Did you walk away feeling like you had a breakthrough?
VANZANT: Sometimes you go on to do one thing and something else unfolds. When you’re dealing with the ravages of long-term drug abuse you’re also dealing with the impact of the entire ecology of the environment. What we discovered was that the greatest healing was for his son Xavier who had not had the ability to address what he was feeling about his father. Xavier really got the biggest breakthrough.

ESSENCE.com: What did you learn from this?
VANZANT: I learned that this was a tragedy in the making. It was something that we’ve seen before; that we’ve sat around speculating about, and that if somebody didn’t take an active initiative to do something, that we could lose our brother; we could lose DMX.

Watch DMX on the season premiere of Iyanla: Fix My Life on Saturday, April 13, at 9 p.m. ET on OWN.

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